April Fools!

April 1st 2020 was one of the best April Fool’s Days I think we will ever have.  This was the day that we closed on our new farm in Ewing, Kentucky.  In the middle of a global pandemic, we bought a 4 acre property that sits in between a rushing creek and an old railroad track! 

At the time that we were notified that we were actually moving forward, it was soon after I injured my hamstring and we were freshly going into this new normal of “social distancing”.  I have to admit that, initially, I was not too excited for the news.  We had been in the process of buying the property since Christmas, and we had basically resigned to the fact that it was never going to happen.  There was so much back and forth about the value of the home versus the loan being approved and we did not even know if we would be given a loan.

Perriee and I have a great way of altering our long term plans, based on the current goings-on of life. We already had about 3 different ideas of what to do if we did NOT get the house and we were getting excited about it. We then we got the call, a week after working from home full-time due to a pandemic, that we were about to buy a second home.    Everything was so uncertain.  We both felt like our jobs were secure, but I just could not imagine a bank being willing to move forward with a loan for a second home.  But they were ready, so we leaned in.   

We both took the day off once we confirmed that we would not be doing the closing remotely.  I sent a quick email prior to the day, just to make sure that we would at least be doing the social distance thing.  Our mortgage lender was already on it.  The seller was scheduled to get there after us, in order to stagger our exposure to one another, which really made me feel better since he is in the “mature” stage of life.  When we got there, we called from the parking lot so we could be let into the bank.  The lobby had already been closed to foot traffic.   Our lender’s office had a folding table set up at the end of her desk to increase the space between us and her.  It was super creative!  We brought our own pens, but she had some throwaways ready for us.  We brought masks with us, but we ended up not wearing them.  It was April 1st and we did not want to be the weirdos, even though I wanted to wear it.  The last thing I wanted was for us to potentially be the ones to bring coronavirus to Flemingsburg, Kentucky.  

After signing our paperwork, Marcus, the seller, arrived and was set up in a totally different office than us to sign his paperwork for the sale.  I chatted with our realtor for a few minutes when she stopped in for some last minute signatures and it was hard to not hug her for sticking with us through the process!  When Marcus was done, he gave us a key to the house.  He told me that this day was hard for him- it was the day he sold his childhood home as a final chapter to his parents’ lives.  It was special to be the ones to be on the receiving end of that day, since Perriee and I have the best intentions to do that property justice in its rejuvenation.  We tried to communicate that to him on more than one occasion.  As we were leaving, he told us he wanted to show us something about the water over at the house that was just repaired, so he met us over there to give us the rest of the keys.  

Marcus was our first guest at the house.  He stopped over from his brother’s house (from across the tracks) when he saw us pull up the driveway, gave us the rest of the keys, and kindly showed us where the water meter was (which happens to be on the other side of the creek).  He did not need to do that, but he did.  He also shared that he was happy that we were the ones who bought the house, as opposed to another family from out of town.  That was super special to hear as our initial “welcome to the neighborhood”.  

The grass was freshly mowed, and we took a quick tour of the house, before heading back home.  We totally had a jumping up and down and hollering moment, then Marcus came back to ask about the electric bill (I had already set it up to be transferred).  I wonder if he heard us celebrating!  I hope if he did, he found it comforting.  

It has been a little more than a month since we closed and we are so excited to be sharing this next chapter of life with all of you.  Each time we go we love it more and more and have already interacted with such wonderful people.  The feelings we get there are already so warm a fuzzy.

Homework: Be Flexible

I have heard that our perceptions of difficult situations is really what allows us to be happy in life. We can’t wait for perfection because I am afraid it will never come. Lean in to whatever is happening at the moment and find the way to make it the best.  We love getting excited about things, and during this process we got excited about getting this house, then excited about not getting it, only to be stoked to be cleaning it up and getting ready for the first renovation projects after we got the keys. I know I am preaching to the choir, but nothing in life is predictable; go with the flow, and learn to love the free fall (credit to Karen Kilgariff’s therapist for a similar explanation of life).  

The Party Barn

The Gamblers

We spent a weekend in Las Vegas not too long ago and it was ah-ma-zing!  The hotel we stayed at was Mandalay Bay in a gorgeous room. For thirty bucks a piece we scored a day pass in their beautiful spa.  Call me sheltered, naive, or uncultured, but in my opinion, it was magical. You got a giant robe and sandals to wear while visiting, along with a locker and all of the towels you could want.  There were greek or roman looking fountains spilling into hot tubs and a cold tub at the center of the spa, all surrounded by lounge chairs. We spent our time going between the dry heat room and the eucalyptus steam room, then to the cold pool to bring it all together.  

We went once in the morning to have a coffee and a sweat, then again before they closed after a day on the strip. It was perfect.  

Spa lobby, no cameras allowed inside!

We did not gamble that much, but threw a few dollars into some video poker, keno, and a Goonies movie themed slot machine, which at least gave you some extra steps to complete in between spins to extend your money a little bit.  

I ate some of the most delicious macaroni and cheese from the hotel room service menu and we left a half eaten plate of shoestring french fries because we could not finish them all!  What happens in Vegas… Our last stop of the night was to surprise some friends who got married that weekend at their hotel. We took the bus to Circus Circus, gave them a hug, then headed back to our hotel only to miss our stop and walk a mile back after getting to see the Welcome to Vegas sign.  

Perriee is the absolute best travel buddy I could ever dream to have.  We just have so much fun together everywhere we go. I know that anything that life deals out is automatically going to be easier and better if she is there to share it with.  

Saying that, I can now share that we are going to be leaving our spot where the a-frame cabin is standing.  Over the last year, it has become clear that although the exact spot where the cabin sits along with the tipi is absolutely magical, it is not the land that shines, but our energy when we are there together.  When we have thought about our future there and the things we want to do there, we have had some difficulty envisioning it in alignment with the what the other family might want to do in the future. 

We started poking around on the internet and have found that it might even be possible for us to find our own place.  I had not even considered that as a possibility since we started this journey over two years ago. Because of that, we are moving on.  We were at a point where we could invest a good amount of time and money into the cabin, but decided to first talk with the group about some things that have been weighing heavily on my mind for a long time now.  I have not mustered the courage to bring it up until now. Once the words were out it was clear what the best move should be, and it is, which is to leave. We are all adults and have found ourselves to be different in ways that just won’t mesh as a lifestyle and it is ok.  It is neither good nor bad. We are different and are all mature enough to recognize it. Things are a little raw at the moment, but I truly am looking forward to watching us all grow from this, even if it just through an Instagram post. I know Perriee and I feel a great sense of relief over it and I hope everyone else does too. 

We don’t have any regrets.  Our time there has brought us so much.  It has been one, very long, team building session for the two of us and we have emerged stronger from it all.  And it is not ending! We are still Making Time for Tipi.  That is not ending. In fact, it is very active as I sit here writing this post right now.  We can’t wait to take you on the next leg of the journey.    

Homework

Trust Your Gut:  Over the last couple of years I have found myself in some situations which were uncomfortable to me.  I am working on building up the courage to speak up for myself so eventually I was able to get out of them. The real practice is to have the ability to not get into those situations in the first place.  

As a child, I was constantly reminded to suck it up and deal with the situation at hand, no matter how uncomfortable it may have been.  My childhood was a bit of a roller coaster so I mastered the art of “grin and bear it” amidst some pretty heavy stuff. At the time, that was super useful.  I was a kid and had little control over decisions that were made on my behalf so a good survival technique was to make the most of a bad situation and keep pushing forward.  

In my new found forties (42 now, thank you very much), I am realizing that as an independent adult, I don’t have to just “go along” with things that I can literally feel eating away at my gut.  I need to recognize that feeling early on and learn to say, “no” with intent. For those situations that I miss the signs, it is imperative that I face the discomfort head on, and move away from it as soon as possible.  That is so hard for me!!

Life is too short to waste on negativity that is doomed to persist.  Whether it is a toxic person, relationship, environment, or whatever, we need to be able to see that some things will not change no matter what.  That takes courage to do and is super scary for people like me. Hopefully a lot of you don’t have this courage deficit that I have. If you do, just practice.  Put yourself first. Know that the feeling of the freedom from that toxicity in your life is so much better than the feeling of marinating in it. Save yourself!  

As 2019 comes to a close, I can say that I feel pretty good about how it ended.  Last year on New Year’s Eve I made a promise to myself to have more confidence. Good job me.  Leaving the partnership with our friends where our spot is, Camp Good Enough, was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done but it has already opened up a space for better things and I am proud of that.  

I don’t know what lies ahead, but I will make sure it is interesting.  Happy New Year everyone! Happy new decade!  

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em 

Know when to walk away and know when to run

You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table

There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealing’s done

The Gambler, Kenny Rogers

Heaters and fires and woodstoves, oh my!!

The temps are dropping for the season and we love staying in the cabin at now (as opposed to the tipi), so after our last night at the a-frame we decided to move forward on a heating solution. We settled on the Dyna Glo 20,000 btu propane space heater.  We believe it will be more than enough to heat up the cabin, once we get it up and running.  

Once again venturing into unknown territory, we did our YouTube research and bought a few parts that we thought we should use to get the propane flowing. Although we are clearly amateurs here, I guess I should not discount our experience with the one-pound propane green things, and Perriee did hook up our gas grill this summer.  But this time is all about indoor gas in a house.  We really don’t have a lot of room for error!  

What we noticed upon our research was that most people kind of half-assed their installations.  I mean, they did not have propane spewing out of their hoses or anything, but their processes were pretty far off of the manufacturer’s recommended instructions.  There was one kick ass family though, who rocked it out!  Really, the whole video is awesome from start to finish.  The guy gave a great supplies list demo, his partner (a bad ass woman) threaded it all together with their beautiful baby on her hip, and ultimately, did the final walkthrough to make sure he did it all right.  Ok, I don’t know these people, and I am making a lot of assumptions, but damn…

Per usual, we found our sweet spot somewhere in the middle of doing it “by the book” and doing it half assed!  We chose to hook up the propane hose that connects to the propane tank to a flexible gas pipe which connects to the heater.  Once we figure out for sure where the pipes need to be routed to, we will re-run some the gas lines with solid pipes. For now, however,  we can just push the propane hose through the roof and connect it to the pipe inside.  

When we went through this process, it sort of worked, but when we tested the leaks before firing the heater up (the ole dish soap and water trick).  We quickly found our line was not sealed. Perriee turned the gas on from the outside and I immediately heard the hissing of the gas on the inside. We soon came to understand that we were lacking a fitting and it would require a trip to the hardware store.  Being about 6:00 pm, I was miffed. It was already dark and the temp was dropping.  

For some reason, I was not feeling like sitting in the tipi for the night to keep warm by the wood stove that already had a nice fire burning within it.  I jumped into bed and covered myself up. Pouting, you may say. Luckily we had stopped back home in the city before heading to the cabin for “Big Blue”, the blanket.  Big Blue is this super heavy comforter that is what I imagine a weighted blanket to be like. It is both warm and heavy. So, I knew we werent going to be cold, but I was mad that we were stuck without a ready solution.  Perriee suggested that we make a fire outside and enjoy the evening. That was the tall glass of lemonade that I needed.  

I drug myself out of the bedand we collected some sticks and branches from around the homestead and made a beautiful fire.  The best part of it all was this video I took once the coyotes started howling in the night. They sounded a little too close, but it was spectacular to be witness to.  

In the morning, when I finally poked my head out from the cover of “Big Blue” ,  we huddled back up in the tipi for coffee and cast iron oatmeal. It is so funny how we are able to tolerate extremes when we need to.  I can’t wait until we get the heater going and have a warm space at the push of a button. That is fact. What I am worried about, is that once we experience the cabin with those comforts of heat-on-demand, we will feel like we can’t be comfortable in there anymore if we don’t have it.  

Enjoy the Best and the Worst

Totally digressing here, but it reminds me of the time that a friend of ours tried to fix our bathroom tub faucet.  He cranked it so hard that it broke the pipe. This all happened during the height of the recession- I think it was 2010 or so, and Perriee and I were consequently also super broke at the time.  To shut off the flow to that water, we had to shut off the water to the whole house. We had no money for a plumber and therefore no water. 

It was also really rainy at the time, so we started catching water in containers outside to supplement with bathing and such since it was there and plentiful.  We were like, “We don’t need water! We can just collect it all!” Once we finally saved enough money to call a plumber, fearing the cost would be out of our range of affordability, the water was back on.  It was awesome, and I cannot imagine collecting it all again to service the house. How quickly we adapt. I guess it is good that we are fast to adapt to either end of that spectrum of comfort.  

Homework: Women Can Build Shit Too! 

Expose girls to the home improvement projects, new construction, landscaping, D.I.Y. world from birth.  I truly hope you watch the looks of wonderment from the baby in the gas line video. She was soaking it all in and watching her mom hold her while she threaded the gas pipe moved me.   It was the best example of model parenting i may have ever witnessed.  

I am convinced that women should be exposed to all of the things that men are in order to form the baseline connections needed to utilize those brain cells, if needed, in the future.  I am not criticizing my upbringing by any means. I do remember my grandpa letting me hang out in his workshop and I watched him make some cool things, but I wish i had more knowledge to inform the things I am doing today.  I feel like it would all come a bit faster than it is. Yes, sillly, do the same for boys. Reinforce their desires to nurture and coddle like you do with the girls. Give everyone a fighting chance to be their best. Don’t limit children to those roles of,  “boys do yardwork and fix things while girls wash dishes and clean the house”.   

I understand that I am likely preaching to the choir here.  Lets face it- gender is a shaky construct getting ready to collapse.  THANK GODDESSES!! Lets just scrap all of those dumb buckets of his and hers and just teach all people to be their best.  It will be a simplified curriculum and so much more powerful for everyone.  

And remember: Women can build shit too! 

Off Grid Living

Cabin life is coming into focus, one screw at a time (we really are partial to screws as opposed to nails.  Amateur tip: they come out easily when you make a mistake!). We installed one of two small windows on the front of the house which will be topped off with solid triangle window panes. We have also started to dive into the whole process of finishing the roof off with fascia, j- channels and soffit stuff.  With the miracle of YouTube, the process is starting to look pretty easy! I think once that is done, we will be darn close to sealing off the ports of entry for the mice.  CLOSE. Not done, but damn close. 

As far as power goes down at the cabin, our main goal is to be fueled by the sun.  I think that is a very realistic goal, considering how much time we spend there currently and for how beautifully the sun hits the roof for a good part of the day.   We are in the market for the Goal Zero, Yeti 1400 which, after some research, we found out will support at least two pots of brewed coffee per weekend.  That, my friends, is amazing. Yes, we could walk up to the house to brew a pot, and we have. Yes, we can make a fire to boil water for the french press, and we have.  Yes, we can boil that water on a grill. Let me tell you, non- coffee drinkers, there is nothing more wonderful then pouring water into your coffee pot and flipping the switch for a fast cup first thing when you wake up.  No walking, no waiting, just brewing. It really is priceless. Be sure to click this link to see how powerful a coffee pot is compared to say, a full-size refrigerator.  A coffee-pot is small, yet mighty! 

Other than a coffee pot, other things we need electric for are simple:  phone and computer charging, power tool battery recharging, BioLite BaseLantern (our source of light in the cabin) recharging, and in the future, maybe a t.v.  We are going to need to be spending some serious time there for a t.v. to be given the gift of our precious electricity.  We are not quite set on a way to heat the cabin yet, but it will either be from propane or wood. 

What about refrigeration? We have recently been talking about getting one of those small cooler-type refrigerators.  Camp Addict has a good rundown of a few options.  But really, when the time comes, we may be best served with a mini-fridge running off of the solar powered generator.  We can go into more details about that later, but for now, we just pack a cooler. Over the summer when it was super hot, it was challenging to keep things at the right temps with a cooler full of ice, so recently we have been to trying to pack more food that does not even require refrigeration and it has been fun trying to come up with different menu options.

Below are some ideas of things that you can bring with you on your next off grid camping trip!  The freedom from ice is so liberating! The only catch for the things you cook, is that you might need to eat it all so you don’t take up any small cooler space for the leftovers! 

Shopping List:

We do have a small stash of things that we keep there in jars within a sealed plastic tub: Oatmeal, coffee, italian seasoning, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, cinnamon, some jarred nuts, and a few bags of tea.

Here is a basic list of things we bring there on occasion:

Apples:  Apples and pears pair so well with so many things.  Cheese and nuts are some of our favorites.

Slice a tomato and toast some bread, and you have the breakfast of champions.  In cool weather, butter can be kept nice without a lot of refrigeration which goes great with toast. 

Oatmeal:  all you need is some hot water!  Top it with nuts, brown sugar, and raisins or any other dried fruit.  Don’t be afraid to try some steel cut oats to change it up a bit. You can make it savory with some sauteed greens and a fried egg.  

Peanut butter! Peanut butter is delicious and filling and oh so shelf stable.   It is good for breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner.  

Farm fresh eggs:  the beauty of fresh eggs is that they do not require refrigeration unless you had already washed and chilled them.  They come with a nice coating on them called a bloom which keeps them fresh without the need to keep them cold. It is amazing! Pair it with some corned beef hash instead of bacon or sausage if you need some breakfast meat with your meal.  

Tortellini, vacuum packed,  with a marinara made from some canned tomatoes and sauce.  Yes, you can just buy your own jar of spaghetti sauce, but as a grandchild of an italian immigrant, I am not allowed to recommend that.  You could boil any type of pasta, but the tortellini is a bit softer to start with so it cooks nicely when your heat source is a little energy sensitive.  

Speaking of cans, my dad would always make Dinty Moore beef stew when we went camping as kids.  It has been forever since we have had it, but I might need to try it again for old time’s sake.  He also made canned La Choy chow mein.  

Other food in cans: Tuna (you need some mayo), all beans (make a bean salad), soups, veggies, and fruits.

Last but not least, don’t forget the fresh fruits and veggies. They really don’t need to be refrigerator cold if you are going to be eating them in a timely manner: Potatoes, onions, squash, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, apples, bananas, pears, peaches, citrus.

Homework: Try to use less energy. 

Turn a light off when you leave a room, unplug some dead energy like a stove, microwave, or computer that is not in use.  Adjust a thermostat when you are not home to enjoy it. I am totally preaching to the choir here because I need to do these things more too.  It is not only good for the world, but good for your bank account too!

P.S. It is beautiful at our spot in the fall.

October, 2019

A Win is a Win is a Win!

The Vocal Yokel Merch business is going, well…slow.  But it is going. There is definitely a lot to learn. Just this second, Perriee had the bright idea to send an email to our mailing list! We kew it was an option to do it, but had sort of lost sight of it in the midst of working on other aspects of the site. Worth a shot, right?  Even though it feels like it isn’t moving, we at least keep trying to learn something new about it and try something new whenever possible. Once we crack the code of ecommerce, watch out! It really is something we both enjoy, so I am sure we will get somewhere with it once we have a little more time to dedicate to it. Until then, we will forage ahead with the cabin whilst I daydream about working on our business, side by side from our a-frame’s shaded deck.    

After getting within a couple of thousand dollars of paying off our basement waterproofing that we financed five years ago, we decided to divert our cabin money towards paying the bill off.  I think we can say we are within three weeks or so of getting there so we are feeling really good about that part of life at the moment.  

We had our basement waterproofed several years ago and are just about to pay it off.  At the time, a ten year loan did not sound so bad but three years into it, and I was ready to wrap it up. Don’t get me wrong; we both agree that it was an amazing investment.  Our house was built in 1911 and she had a musty under-carriage. Having it waterproofed and ventilated gave us the opportunity to use the space as a type of rec-room which came in really handy when we starting hosting through Airbnb.  As a matter of fact, I am typing this post while sitting in it, right this very moment. It is going to feel good when we can say that we own this fresh basement air.  

In spite of the temporary diversion of cabin funds, we have really been able to make some progress on getting the cabin weathered in before the first snowfall.  We had enough materials on hand already to knock out several things and still have things to do. The front windows are framed in, we covered the front with plywood, Tyvek is up on the front of the house, and we are getting ready to put in windows and doors.  We already have the back windows in, but will be putting in the window above the door opening this weekend and will be trying our hand at retrofitting a steel hollow door. Once we are back in savings mode, we can get ready to purchase the rest of the windows for the front of the house (and maybe a door, if this one does not work out).  

The current plan is to get two big-ass triangle windows which will be installed on either side of the door.  That journey in and of itself has been a big to-do! Because we are going super custom, and we are doing them ourselves,  we have been in contact with many different places. Some do them, some don’t and there are other factors like delivery and price which have varied quite a bit.  We are finally settled on Lowes, but I will keep you updated because there is a great chance that could still change.  

Homework

Recognize your wins.  

Of course we want to report through the roof merch sales, and of course we want to report that the cabin has a door on it, and we will.  But for now, we can focus on paying off this basement bill five years early, We can also celebrate not running into another long-term loan and work really hard to keep it that way.  Building a solid financial future is just as important as building a home and I think that is something we do really well together. Good job us! Good job you for that thing you rocked out!

Perriee napping in the rec-room with Mr. Mittens!